How To Practice English in Lockdown
Here are LVC’s 3 Top Tips To Help You Practice English in Lockdown:
- Online language partner
Maybe you think it is hard to practice English in Lockdown. But in fact, there are a number of ways you can keep your language learning alive. Here we list 7 of the best ways to practice English – and all from the comfort of your own living room, or bed.
Watch the whole film for fun
Everyone loves movies, don’t they? Watching films is an excellent way to improve your English.
When you watch a film, there are two ways to practice. First, you can practice for general understanding. Second, you can practice for detail. So, what does this mean? Practising for general understanding means you watch the whole film from start to finish. Don’t stop, don’t pause, don’t worry if you miss something. In fact, just focus on the story. Instead of trying to understand every word the characters are saying, just concentrate on the action.
If you do this, new vocabulary will jump out at you. While you are watching the story, bits and pieces will make sense, and some new words stay in your mind. Overall, this way of watching a film lets you enjoy the story, the sound and rhythm of the language. This is the fun part, and you don’t need to worry if there are bits you miss.
Should you use subtitles? Actually, this depends on your level, and on what you yourself are comfortable with. Why not start with subtitles and then try without them once you feel more confident? Subtitles really do help with new words and pronunciation, so don’t feel embarrassed about using them. Don’t feel that you need to make things difficult for yourself!
The second way to watch a movie is to watch for detail. This time, instead of watching the whole film, try watching a two-minute section. You should do this without subtitles. That might sound scary, but the idea is this: listen for two minutes, then write down any dialogue you remember or understood. Next, go back and watch the same two minutes again. What did you get right, and what did you miss?
After that, start the film again, listen, pause it after ten seconds, then write down as much of the dialogue as you can. The focus is now on word-for-word detail. Exactly how much dialogue did you write correctly?
This is not easy, but it is an excellent test of your listing skills. What’s more, every time you do it, your listening skills will improve. When you have finished, go back and check what you wrote by using the subtitles again. This takes time, but honestly, it’s so helpful!
Reading the Script
Even better than subtitles, many movies and TV shows have screenplays that are available online. By downloading a screenplay, you can check your version of the dialogue with what the writer themselves wrote. You can even read the film or TV show and listen at the same time. The immensely popular TV series Breaking Bad has a number of screenplays available.
Doing this kind of controlled activity will help you to improve your listening and pronunciation skills no-end. But whether you choose a film or a TV series, the most important thing is to choose something you LIKE. The more you like what you are studying, the more motivation you will have. This is a crucial part of doing anything well, and it is certainly true of studying a language.
What is the big deal with audiobooks, and how can they help you? Aside from the fact that reading is the best way to increase your vocabulary, audiobooks have another amazing quality. They help with pronunciation.
How audiobooks help with pronunciation
But don’t films and TV series also help with pronunciation? Yes, they do, it’s true. But the thing about English pronunciation is that it works differently from many languages. You don’t necessarily pronounce a word in the way that it appears on the page. In Spanish “pais” sounds the way it looks: pie-eess. But what is the correct pronunciation of “slough”? It is “slow”, “slouw” or “sloff”? It is much easier to predict sounds in Spanish and Italian than it is in English.
For that reason, although reading is a great way to improve your vocabulary, not to mention your grammar, reading in English doesn’t help with pronunciation. However, an audiobook is different: this is all pronunciation.
But, wait a minute. If it’s all pronunciation, how do we know what the spelling of the word is? That’s a great question. The answer is simple. First, find an audiobook that you really want to listen to. Second, buy a physical copy of the same book. Third, read and listen at the same time. Doing both activities at once will really help you understand how to pronounce the words.
Listen for ten minutes at a time, then go back and repeat any sections you had problems with. Do this kind of controlled practice every day for one month, and your pronunciation will jump forward.
Just like watching movies, the most important thing is to choose something which inspires you. There are lots of audiobooks out there, but some popular ones are:
The Lord of the Rings
Harry Potter and The Magic Hat
Shakespeare (not so popular)
3 Online Language Partners
Language is something we speak. Conversation is perhaps the most important part of learning a language, and maybe also the most difficult. Reading is easier than writing, and listening is easier than speaking. Why is this? Perhaps it has to do with production. Making sense of someone else’s words is one thing, but coming up with them yourself is another. Moreover, one of the problems about speaking is finding someone to speak to. It’s definitely the most difficult skill to practice. However, you can solve this problem by finding a language partner.
What is a language partner?
This is a person who already speaks the language you want to learn and who would like to learn the language you speak. You can meet two hours per week and swap languages. Let’s say, for example, that you speak Spanish and you want to learn English. Then you find someone who wants to speak Spanish, but who already speaks English. After that, you meet once a week for 2 hours, and you both talk. (Not at the same time, obviously.) First, you both talk in Spanish, next, you both talk in English. This is a fifty-fifty swap, and both people benefit.
Finding a partner
But, how do you find a language partner? Thankfully, the Internet has made this very easy. There are a number of free websites where you can advertise or look for a language partner. Upload your info, state what language you want to learn and which language you already speak, then wait for some replies.
Before the pandemic, it was always best to arrange to meet people somewhere safe and public. For example, meeting in a café in the middle of the day was always a good option. Though this is still a good idea, lockdown has changed everything. Perhaps this is perhaps the safest time ever to find a language partner!
There are many websites which can help you find a language partner, but here are two recommendations:
All these tips will help you to practice English in lockdown, but the key thing is to be consistent. Maybe you prefer films to books, and that’s okay. Select one tip and make it a habit. Set aside the time to do one of these things every day, and in one month, your language will really improve.
Finally, while home practice is vital, there is no substitute for studying with a teacher. Take a look at our list of online courses or, if you have any questions, get in touch.
Good luck and stay safe!
Other ideas –
- Read Outloud